By Bill Weaver
July 29, 2010 (Alpine) -- This summer season is full of behind the scenes activity surrounding our 12th Grossmont Union High School District (GUHSD) high school. It will be located on the land adjacent to Viejas Creek, south of Viejas Mountain, immediately south of the I-8 freeway, and ½ mile east of the Albertsons store.
The architectural team continues its design work. Material specifications are being compiled, and a construction Lease-Leaseback (LLB) request for proposals is being prepared. A lot is happening, all while the land purchase is undergoing final settlement negotiations. The civil engineering firm is surveying, preparing tentative grading plans, and determining the underground prep that is necessary for pre-building infrastructure. The groundbreaking is expected to occur in February,or March of 2011.
The Viejas Creek area will be the home of our future high school. This is a historical site. In 1853 the area was known as, “Valle de las Viejas”. This valley’s historical and geographical significance is well documented by the Alpine Historical Society, and other organizations. An online hiking and climbing group writes about the significance of this site’s adjacent peak, Viejas Mountain. Go to www.ahscc.com for more details and investigate site history by way of our links. Albert Simonson, a retired research engineer, and a member of area historical societies, has researched and chronicled this area’s history. The Viejas Creek and 12th new High School area is rich in historical and geographical significance.
The 12th high school’s curriculum model is that of “Big Picture Learning” (BPL). BPL is a well documented success story; from which 21st century education methods and curriculum will be applied to our new Viejas Creek located High School. Curriculum is the force driving the design of our new school. The BPL model requires large, open, and flexible learning spaces. This model creates more latitude for shifting of learning spaces as needed, to fit future needs or changes, with minimal contemplated added costs for physical upgrades down the road. By planning carefully now, and building in the desired flexibility during a time of lower construction costs, we will net more for our today’s dollars, saving future higher anticipated costs for construction and design.
There are around 65 BPL curriculum modeled schools in the USA. We will see many more on a worldwide basis, as other countries seek out, and implement proven success models for education reform. Success, academic rigor, high standards, results, student achievement; these all point to the BPL model as a proven, safe, success oriented, high achieving model. We are fortunate to be replicating this model here in Alpine. Why only 65 BPL schools in the USA? The answer is short and easy; because the best is always at the tip of the bell curve, and is always a small percentage. These BPL schools are 65 of the very best, exemplary achieving high schools found in the United States. Soon, we will have one of these exemplary schools right here in our own backyard, in Alpine’s historic “Valle de las Viejas” area. Choosing the BPL model was debated, and argued, then ultimately enthusiastically embraced by a majority of our Alpine HS Design Team contingent.
Why the near unanimous acceptance? BPL has demonstrated, and proven itself, with results. BPL is leaps and bounds better in measured performance, over the norms for graduation rates, and for higher learning institution and post high school acceptance rates. The best model for delivering a 21 century education isn’t the 100 year-old traditional model, or the way we have always done education. The BPL way isn’t in the mainstream of tradition, it is much more student centric. Expect people to question this model. The traditionalists among us will argue its success formula and cast doubt on it strongly. However, BPL results are unquestionably amazing. After many, many hours spent in study, I feel that the BPL adapted model is certain to make this 12th High School, GUHSD’S highest achiever. It will be emulated by others as one of the best, non-urban, model High Schools. There will be an eventual long waiting list of enthusiastic parents, who want their kids to attend this Alpine BPL model adapted high school.
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a third-party green building certification system established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). It is the only recognized standard by the State of California Department of State Architecture (DSA). There are four levels of LEED recognized efficiencies. “Certified” is lowest, achieved with 40 to 49 points. Then are Silver, Gold, and Platinum, the highest, requiring a minimum 80 points or LEED credits. To think that “Certified” (lowest LEED level) is not good, or a poor level of efficiency, is akin to thinking that an Olympics Bronze medal is a last place achievement! Our school is planned for the 3rd place Silver level, I hope Gold is a goal.
The Viejas Creek land hosting our future HS, is 92 acres. The 100 year flood event exposure by Viejas Creek requires careful planning. Our buildings will be set-back, above flood levels, as determined by the Army Corp of Engineers. There is also open space required, and protected areas. It is expected that there will be around 45 acres of net usable land. The site will be completely graded, and all underground utilities are to be placed, in preparation for an eventual campus with classrooms and buildings to serve 2000 students. The initial classrooms will serve at least 800. We hope GUHSD administration, staff, and the governing board will consider increasing that limitation. There are about 1200 Alpine and Blossom Valley area students attending GUHSD high schools currently.
What should be said of naysayers to the 12th HS, the planned BPL curriculum, its facilities, or my opinions? Informed, well-researched, and constructive critiques of my opinions are welcome. Do your own investigation and form your own opinions. Don’t believe anything written, or said, by anyone, without fact checking it. I write and say nothing that I’ve not substantiated from non-biased, professional, and credible 3rd party sources. Learn more online about some of the sources for my information. Start at the Alpine HS Citizens’ Committee website; www.ahscc.com, also see www.guhsd.net, or call the GUHSD and ask for the 12th HS facility planning, or curriculum and staff development folks.